Kahuku dominates again for OIA championship
Kahuku seniors Grace Rittenhouse and Hannah Smith share a moment after beating Kaiser for the OIA girls water polo title. Michael Lasquero | SL
WAIPIO — Kahuku erupted for five goals in the third quarter as the Red Raiders defended its Oahu Interscholastic Association title with a 9-6 win over Kaiser at the K. Mark Takai Veterans Memorial Aquatic Center at Patsy T. Mink Central Oahu Regional Park on Saturday afternoon.
"It felt good because we wanted to win because it's our senior year," Sophie Wilson said.
The Red Raiders (13-1) captured their ninth-straight crown and have dominated the OIA winning 14 of the past 15 titles.
"They are the perennial favorites year in and year out and are at the top of the pinacle in OIA girls water polo. We beating them one time was a big victory for us. But I knew playing them for the second time for the championship, it would take an extraordinary effort against them and as you can see we came up short," Kaiser coach Asa Tanaka said.
Kahuku also avenged an earlier season loss to the Cougars (14-1), 6-5, back on April 4 to snap Kaiser's 14-game winning streak.
"I think they took us lightly, this time there was more purpose in their game. It was faster and stronger, they had an intensity that they didn't have the first time," Tanaka said.
"First time we met them, we underestimated their potential and they have nice shots and took that for granted. We weren't as hungry that day. It was a learning process to come back," Kahuku coach Gina Ahue said. "It was a good wake up call, it motivated us more."
Wilson led the Red Raiders with four goals, Ava Countryman, who is second in Division I overall in scoring with 45 goals, added two, while Siitia Cravens, Kayla Grigsby, and Hannah Smith added one each. Goalie Kimbrell Kunz had five saves.
"We got pumped up before the game and had good vibes," Wilson said on the hot start.
"The whole team contributed and Kimbrell Kunz stepped up big this year and it's her first time ever playing goalie and she was a natural," Ahue said.
Kahuku senior Sophie Wilson led the Red Raiders with four goals, scoring twice in each half and shooting 4 for 4 on the afternoon. Michael Lasquero | SL
Kahuku attacked first on Cravens' goal, and Wilson followed up 1 minute 8 seconds later for an early 2-0 lead. Megan Kaneshiro, who led the Cougars with a team-high three goals, got Kaiser on the board at the 4:05 mark in the first period.
"It was our plan to come out strong on offense and defense. All the girls executed amazingly and I'm so proud of each and every one of them," Ahue said.
Kanoko Niimura tied the game at 2 in the second period, but that was short-lived as Grigsby answered with a goal and Wilson added another off of Grace Rittenhouse's steal to give the Red Raiders a 4-2 lead going into halftime.
"At halftime, I had them breathe and refocus and stay calm. We can get ahead of ourselves and our anxiety kicks in. I wanted them to play our game and play our speed and we know how to execute," Ahue said of the halftime message.
Noelle Nakakura brought Kaiser within a one goal deficit, 4-3, to start the third period, but Kahuku scored five-straight goals to break the game open. Countryman who had eight shot attempts for the game, got a pair of shots to fall in at the 6:15 and 0:07 mark. Hannah Smith added a goal off of Rittenhouse's assist and Wilson's fourth goal of the game gave the Red Raiders a commanding 9-3 lead heading into the fourth.
"We came out the first half trying to figure out what the team is like. The other half we came out and knew what we want to get done," said Wilson, who went 4 for 4 on shot attempts.
"At the end of the second half, we had two girls that had exclusions each and I couldn't put them in so even though we had replacements it dropped off and it was difference," Tanaka said.
Kaneshiro tossed in two goals and Nakakura added another late in the fourth period, but it was too little too late for the Cougars to mount a comeback. Goalie Bay Hamby had six deflections for the game.
"We told them to just have fun," Tanaka said. "They call it a five meter. If you get fouled outside the five meter you can take a shot. We said if you have a five meter and get fouled, go for it."
Both teams have already clinched spots in the 2018 Stanford Carr Development LLC Girls Waterpolo Championships starting on April 30. Joining them from the OIA will be Roosevelt, Kalaheo, Moanalua and Kapolei.